A white Dallas police officer is on administrative leave as the department investigates allegations that he made and tried to sell a challenge coin that the Black Police Association rejected as racist.
Chief Eddie García said at a news conference Wednesday that the officers’ designs for the South Central Patrol Division coin colored the department. He apologized to the community. Police have said south Dallas is a priority, something they reiterated after two mass shootings there this spring.
“I don̵[ads1]7;t have it,” García said. “It’s not going to continue on my watch. We have a standard at the Dallas Police Department. I will not allow one person to tarnish that and tarnish our brand and what we do.
“If there is a cultural problem here, I will change it or I will die trying,” he added.
Terrance Hopkins, president of the Black Police Association, said he is extremely troubled because some people saw the coin and didn’t flag it.
On one side, the coin depicts a drug house and an altered image of the Pillsbury Doughboy, who has gold teeth and is holding money and a gun. Hopkins said the image refers to a drug dealer named Doughboy from the film Boyz n the Hood.
The words “Big ‘T’ Plaza” are sprinkled across the center of the coin, which Hopkins said refers to a Dallas mall frequented by black patrons. A police car is on one side of the coin, opposite a purple car that Hopkins said has gold rims and large wheels and resembles vehicles driven by black people in the area. The coin also had a police department number on it that referred to south Dallas.
The front of the coin shows a Dallas police badge with the words “South Central” and “15 years” at the top and bottom.
The South Central division covers southern parts of Dallas, including east and southeast Oak Cliff, and parts of Red Bird. It includes the area between State Highway 67 to Interstate 45.
A screenshot of a Facebook post — which was shared in a group for members of the Dallas Police Association — said the coin was made in honor of the 15th anniversary of the South Central Patrol Division.
Mike Mata, the head of the Dallas Police Association, said he had no knowledge of the post until someone brought it to his attention. He said it was “immediately deleted”.
Mata shared the message he sent to members of the Dallas Police Association. He wrote that “when a person or organization makes an error in judgment or mistake, they must own it in order to move forward.” He said he believes the coin and post were made in bad taste and “had nothing to do on the DPA member side.”
“I understand that it is my responsibility to maintain the moral compass of the DPA membership site,” Mata wrote. “I would like to apologize to any person who was hurt or offended by the post, and I promise to be more diligent in my duties to ensure that this organization and the media sites within it respect all members.”
The author of the Facebook post asked for $10 for each coin, and said the coins could be delivered by the first week of October. Those interested in buying a coin could pay via Venmo. It is unclear how many coins were sold.
The officer whose Venmo was listed, Caleb McCollum, could not be reached for comment. Records show he is assigned to the Southwest Patrol Division. His Venmo account shows payments for various coins, including for other patrol areas. A person who bought “3x SC coins” was refunded on Tuesday, the account shows.
“Officers and the community are asking questions,” Hopkins said. “These questions are, ‘Is this the way white officers see us in our community? Is this the only vision they have of black people?’ There are too many good things going on in the Southern community for this to be the only way some people look at us.”
García said the post was taken down as soon as it was brought to the attention of commanders. He said bosses learned about it late Tuesday. It was unclear when information about the coin was first posted or if images appeared elsewhere.
García described a challenge coin as a commemorative coin that often depicts police departments and “something memorable.” He said they are usually a source of pride and there is a process “how to get a challenge coin to be appropriate,” which he said police will look into as part of the investigation. Other agencies and groups also produce challenge coins.
He said the officer was immediately told to stop, so he doesn’t think any coins were made. He said the officer involved will be dealt with responsibly and swiftly. He did not elaborate.
“We hire from humanity,” the boss said. “I don’t think there’s a police chief in America who’s going to sit here and tell you they don’t have officers who can have this mentality. It’s what a department does, what a community does, in response to that … that’s the standard we’re held to.”
Dallas police officers have previously faced criticism related to racial insensitivity. In 2019, four officers were placed on leave and more than 20 others were investigated after researchers with The Plain View Project published a database spanning years of public positions from officers in eight departments, including Dallas.
Of 5,000 positions, more than 300 were from Dallas officers who were on active duty at the time. The posts included Islamophobic comments, racial stereotypes and jokes about police brutality. At least 13 Dallas officers were later disciplined under then-Chief U. Reneé Hall.
More recently, police stated their priority of south Dallas after a spate of shootings there earlier this year, including a mass shooting at a concert and another at a party. García said at the time that officers had been out in the area not only to weed out crime, but also to inject positivity.
García said Wednesday that the officer’s actions with the coin “affect us all.”
“We are our own worst enemy at times,” García said. “I’ve been out in the community, I’ve seen our honorable men and women give their lives and passion to our citizens anyway in this beautifully diverse city that we have here.”
“He should be gone”
Council members Tennell Atkins and Carolyn King Arnold, whose districts include parts of south Dallas, spoke at the news conference Wednesday with the chief, Hopkins and other police and fire leaders to reject the coin.
Atkins said the officer should be fired. He said the coin betrayed the citizens and he now has to figure out what to tell people when they ask if they can trust the South Central Patrol Division or a person in uniform. Hopkins, the president of the Black Police Association, said he also believes the officer should not be on the force.
“He should be gone,” Atkins said of the officer. – We should not tolerate this.
Arnold said she was also troubled that this happened after years of neighborhood policing and efforts to strengthen police-community ties. She said the tie has been broken with this coin.
“Obviously we still have a culture that we need to address,” she said. “Right now in the city of Dallas, we’re focused on racial justice, on removing some of the systemic practices that have been with us for years. And so today is a day for us to reevaluate where we go from here.”